Like A Fine Wine (Willie Nelson, God’s Problem Child review)

You only get one shot at life, and sometimes the kid with the most problems ends up being the adult that saves the day, over and over again. Like a fine wine, it is only with age that they continue to become better versions of themselves.

 

Willie Nelson – God’s Problem Child

released April 28, 2017
********* 9/10

Willie Hugh Nelson, better known as Willie Nelson, is an American musician, singer, songwriter, author, poet, actor, and activist. In other words, at eighty four years old, he’s done much more than most of us could ever hope to achieve. Interestingly enough though, he didn’t see accolades or critical success of any kind until the 1970s with Shotgun Willie, Red Headed Stranger, and Stardust. Nelson was into his forties at this point, so something to consider if you haven’t made it yourself just yet.

As such, Nelson is one of the most celebrated country music artists of all time and a main contributor to the popularity of outlaw country in the 1970s and 1980s. If you aren’t familiar with it, outlaw country is a subgenre of country music that developed as a response to the conservative nature of music coming out of Nashville, Tennessee at the time.

Much has happened in the years following, with Nelson having acting in over thirty films, authored books, joined the supergroup The Highwaymen with Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Kris Kristofferson, and paid off over thirty million dollars in debts owed to the IRS. And we haven’t even really touched upon his activism. But I don’t have the space for that in this post.

Today I’m going to talk about God’s Problem Child, both the album and the eponymous track tucked in the meat of this record.

God’s Problem Child, the album, is one tackling mortality and also have a sense of appreciation for a life well lived. Between David Bowies’ Black Star and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker, this is another album on the subject of death from an artist well into the final stage of life. Nelson just happens to be sticking around a bit longer than those two gents, and for all we know, this might not even be his last offering.

Featuring a range of songs on the topic, from Little House on the Hill and Old Timer, to Your Memory Has a Mind of Its Own, to the hilarious Still Not Dead, and especially It Gets Easier, this album has all the grace and humour of Willie Nelson, with the first touch of reflection on a life well lived.

Little House on the Hill explores the afterlife and what Nelson’s eternal home will be like, and Old Timer shows the realities of geriatric heartache – a well oiled engine, but a rusting frame with bad suspension. True Love is a demonstration of unending compassion, and Delete and Fast Forward is a political number that reminds us we’ve messed up like this before Donald Trump came along.

Hell, even the song Butterfly is a metaphor for transformation and fleeting nature of life.

As for the track, God’s Problem Child, we see Nelson featuring the late Leon Russell (in one of his final recordings) and efforts from Jamey Johnson and Tony Joe White on lead vocals.

This album might not win over legions of new fans, but it definitely has content there enough to win over some millennials here and there, while satisfying the die-hards and people who love classical fingering of the guitar. Trigger shows up in full force, with holes in the soundboard from decades of playing unseen.

And no, it’s not a game changer in the opus of Willie Nelson, but God’s Problem Child does remind us of his iconic status and continued relevance, well into his golden years.

theories Summarized

If you take away the IRS battle, marijuana activism, all of the americana and competition over the years, it’s still clear as day that Nelson can drum up new material with the best of them, creating music that sits with you and leaves a mark. The kind of work worthy of an outlaw. I can only theorize he continues to keep this pace and we get a few more years in the era of Willie Nelson.

Tim!

Been There For You For Decades (Alison Krauss, Windy City review)

I’m not sure why this myself, is but it’s been proven time and again that familiar music is much more likely to incite positive feelings than anything else.

So if you want to induce a good mood for yourself, listen to something you already love. Whether you’re on the road, cleaning house, at work or in the middle of the creative act. Music we’ve personally identifed as good just breeds positive feelings.

Emotional and slowly simmering over decades, this week’s album review features classic tracks, by a familiar voice.

Alison Krauss – Windy City
released February 17, 2017
******* 7/10

alison-krauss-windy-city-album

Alison Krauss is an American bluegrass-country singer and musician. Having been active in the music industry since ten years old, and now forty five years of age, Krauss has released fourteen studio length albums since 1987, including songs on soundtracks such as Cold Mountain.

When it comes to accolades, Krauss has won a total of twenty seven Grammy Awards, no small feat given that she is one of the top recording artists in the history of the awards; now second only to Hungarian-British conductor Sir Georg Solti, who has thirty one awards.

But truthfully I can say it best when I say nothing at all, and let the music speak for itself.

As you all know, I kind of had to grow up listening to country music, so I’m well versed with Krauss’ ability to break hearts and take names over a three minute interval. And this album is no different. Windy City is the fifth solo album by Alison Krauss and features covers of ten classic country songs originally from Brenda Lee, The Osborne Brothers, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Vern Gosdin, Glen Campbell, Bill Monroe and Eddy Arnold.

The question remains the same – is Windy City a fitting tribute or a cold wasteland. Well, I would argue it fits well, but is a bit of a biter.

Krauss is three decades into her career now, and she has an established voice, but unlike so many other artists before her, she has never explored a cover song album previously, and she’s not known for taking the unbeaten path. For instance, I’ve already eluded to her 1995 hit which was a cover of Keith Whitley’s When You Say Nothing At All. She’s always been a staple of the industry, with a touch of refinement, so Windy City doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, though it does sounds amazingly touching throughout. After all, Krauss was particular to record only on days that she felt at her optimal performance levels.

It’s a gentle reminder that there is a reason this lady has twenty seven Grammys; she has talent and intelligence to back it up. Now, I’m not going to spend time digging into each track to justify the existence of each one within the scope of Windy City, but I will write this – Dream of Me, I Never Cared for You, and You Don’t Know Me all made me rather emotional, heck, that last one got me all teary eyed. But that’s probably because ballads are Alison’s bread and butter.

Another point to note, the fire and passion throughout this record are very welcome additions, and something a fan of bluegrass at any age will appreciate. If you’re a fan of classic country, which apparently I am now (thanks for force-feeding me from a young age Dad), Windy City will feel like a well-worn pair of driving gloves, warm, comforting and protective. Also it serves as a bit of an education on what preceded her in the genre.

Krauss’ legacy is well intact and reinforced with Windy City.

 

There’s no way for Alison Krauss to compete with her early successes, people already have decades of time spent with those first few  singles, but playing homage to other well worn tracks is a smart move, and one which plays to her strengths. Windy City might not be the most original offering of the year, but it’s a familiar one, and fun to boot.

Tim!

On The Road Again (The Back Catalogue)

It’s important to take day trips every once and a while, dear readers.

The reason for this is twofold. First, if you take a day trip you are taking an adventure, which is always important to do – you clear your head, gather inspiration, and separate yourself from your daily life. Second, a day trip forces you to either spend time with your thoughts or listening to someone else’s, whether those thoughts are recorded or in real life.

Think about it for a moment, because you likely fit into the same mold as most other people , you struggle with down-time or silence, meditation isn’t really something you get excited about. Thus, you’ll want to fill your day trip with music, audiobooks or talking with potential road companions.

Let’s be honest. Music is the most likely candidate here.

Music is a wonderful primer to organizing emotions in a meaningful way. But the challenge with music is that it is often polarizing between individuals, as well as groups. You get on the road and you hope your tastes line up with your companions, friends, and love ones. But sometimes it doesn’t. And if you dig deeper into the music decisions we make, a lot of the time, we get into musical patterns which limit our growth and stunt our emotional intelligence.

Let’s expand on this last statement a bit better.

For instance, you may only listen to specific genres of music, so you buy music which fits a certain genre and while you may buy new music regularly, you will always careful to stick to that particular theme you trust. Or alternatively, maybe you can only handle certain artists within a genre or genres. You buy up all of their records, but you just aren’t interested in exploring a world outside of those musical heroes.

And of course studies on music preference have been conducted which indicate that certain genres suit our personalities and can determine our intelligence levels too.

This chart below showcases the kinds of musical acts people with different intellects typically listen to.

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And this snippet from an article on music and personality associations shows the typing of individuals based on common musical genres certain personalities prefer.

[Blues, classical, folk, jazz] … “reflective and complex”, you probably see yourself as unathletic, liberal and intelligent (and do, in fact, do pretty well on exams and IQ tests). You are also probably very open to trying new experiences.

[Alternative, heavy metal, rock]… “intense and rebellious” listening types: you share most of your characteristics with the jazz/classical brigade, but you’re more likely to see yourself as athletic and slightly less likely to seek to dominate others.

[Country, pop, religious, soundtracks] “Upbeat and conventional”, you’re likely to be agreeable, extraverted and conscientious. You also see yourself as attractive, wealthy and athletic, as well as politically conservative. Good news: this group is the least prone to depression. Bad news: it scores lowest on IQ tests.

[Electronic, hip hop, rap, soul] You’re an “energetic and rhythmic” listener – extraverted, agreeable, attractive and athletic, but you probably don’t share the political conservatism, wealth or lower IQ of your upbeat-and-conventional chums. This group also scores highest for “blirtatiousness” – the tendency to blurt out your thoughts and feelings as soon as they arise.

 

But what if you don’t fit into one of those four musical camps? What if you have a few genre preferences? Heck, what if you have a really have high IQ and you love punk rock or pop music, does that mean the studies are off base?

Well, no, I think the studies are conclusive, they are taking date from a sample group and applying their models to the general population, and let’s face it, the social sciences, and particularly brain science have not received nearly enough attention yet for us to consider ourselves experts on the subject.

What if you listen to a lot of different genres so you can better appreciate where they are coming from, or what if you want to listen to music from all genres because you recognize that there is value in other perspectives, and you don’t know where to start? Well, I’d recommend checking out this link or this link, for starters.

I have this theory, you see, a theory that if I want to contribute to the music scene, I need to listen to a lot different kinds of music – so that I can appreciate all of what’s available, and quite frankly, expand my own horizons and grow.

This is why I’ve created a Back Catalogue; a list of albums I need to experience reaching as far back as the 1950s. Similar to my list for film, the Back Catalogue is broadening my own collection while strengthening my tastes in good music.

By expanding our music tastes, we can grow our intellect and emotional intelligence. That way, when we take day trips with others, we won’t struggle with the radio on the ride down, no, we’ll be comfortable with the music decisions and will be happy to be on the road again.

But what do you think? Am I wrong for suggesting you expose yourself to new music and artists? Please leave some comments and if you like what you read today, don’t hesitate to like the post and subscribe to my blog. That’s all of my theories for today, see you tomorrow friends!

Tim!